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How to cope with pressure

Pressure.  Coping with it is one of the most difficult things to master.  It is especially difficult to deal with in big games, as Goalden’s own Phil talks about here.  In soccer, it often turns players who are really good in practice, into players who choke in the game…they simply can’t produce.  Pressure will force you to make decisions that you otherwise wouldn’t in a normal state of mind/body.

For example, when you are called upon to take a penalty shot, suddenly you become uneasy, your stomach is twisting and turning, everyone’s looking at you and you have thoughts going through your mind a thousand miles a second.  Rather than shoot the ball effortlessly in the corner like you always practice, you panic and decide to smash the ball hoping it goes in…you just shot the ball over the net.

Pressure isn’t one of those symptons that can be cured within a snap of a finger.  The reality is, in order to overcome pressure, you have to prepare your mind and body to deal with it and take it in stride — put simply, accept it as part of the game.

Why is it that we feel pressure?  I have seen very good players -playing in front of a handful of fans – succumb to pressure almost needlessly.  I have been part of many teams and many games where the fans curse, yell and rage against the players.  Player make bad passes and they’re ridiculed for the rest of the game.  The pressure gets to them and suddenly they start making terrible passes, take awful shots and make even worst decisions all because they’ve become a victim of pressure.

If you are a player who doesn’t deal well with pressure, the question you have to ask yourself is, what if I was playing in front of 80,000 fans that were yelling at me?  How would I react then?

If you have ever been to a professional game, of any sport, you’ll see how hostile some fans can be…even towards their own players and their own team.  When there are thousands of people screaming at a professional athlete, it doesn’t seem to bother him/her.  That’s the approach you have to take.

You can’t change what people think, nor can you tell them what to think.  If people are going to yell at you, so be it.  You have to begin to learn that the only person you can control is yourself.

In order to help yourself be better prepared:

  • Train hard so that your body is in top shape.  When you are in peak form, you begin to think clearer and everything is that much easier.
  • Everybody makes mistakes.  You have to learn to be calm and play freely.  Learn to enjoy yourself on the field.  When you get the ball, if someone is open pass it.  If no one is open, make a move and create an opening for yourself.  There is no need to get flustered and make irrational decisions.
  • With time will come experience, and with experience you’ll calm your nerves and the pressure.  Professionals make it look easy because they have practiced so much and played under high pressure circumstances so often that they’ve learned to deal with it.  So can you…

You think pressure is dribbling the ball with 2 players on you, how about playing with the ball when you’re on fire… thats pressure:

Ivan Bobanovic

By Ivan Bobanovic

Goalden is an online educational soccer blogging website. Readers can learn, discuss and improve their overall soccer game. Each author shares his personal experiences and stories of players who have reached their soccer dreams and more importantly how they did it. The ideas and concepts discussed are often overlooked by coaches at all levels of play in North America. All areas of individual play are discussed so that soccer players can raise their game to the next level. We hope you learn something new from what we have to offer and can share it with a friend.

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